History Of Chess by Harold J.R. Murray
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This incredibly long book is worth reading but only if you enjoy reading encyclopedias. Murray leaves no stone unturned in this giant epitome on the history of chess. He takes us all the way back to India and describes several of the games there that could very well have developed into European chess.
He takes us from country to country, Persia, China, Japan, Malaysia, everywhere some 1500 years ago where they played any sort of game that resembled today's chess game.
If one is a chess expert or afficionado then he will enjoy the very detailed accounts of chess players and moves and rules with all the comparisons and contrasts in existance.
The book is also full of amusing anecdotes about Moguls and Warriors and their chess games. He also notes that chess was taken up over games of chance since chess required strategy and it felt more propitious to engage in games one had control over believing there was a connection between the game and real life war strategies.
He also traces the development of the various pieces, ones starting out as elephants and servants, eventually turning into knights, bishops and also the queen. The Queen had its own evolution from an innocuous player to the most powerful piece on the board.
Murray describes the development of chess in Europe and how it might have arrived there. The church at first was against the game, regarding it as sinful but later embracing it and was also instrumental in changing some of the pieces.
He records every instance of chess being mentioned in Medieval literature and also how the church and Aristocrats created analogies between the game and religious life and courtly behavior.
In the end he records some of the most famous games up to that time (the book was published in 1913) and also some of the more famous sets such as the Isle of Lewis chess set.
While it was a slog, I'm glad I read it and feel I have a better understanding of a game that possesses a rich and diverse history.
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